Steve's Photography Tips: Shoot Raw with Your Phone

Tips to help you improve your photos!

If you have read any of the past Photography Tips here, you have probably seen a mention of shooting in Raw format. If you haven’t, here’s a link to the main Shoot Raw post. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Did you read it? If not, shame on you for not following directions. But here is a quick summary: Raw files capture much more data than standard JPG files, which can be quite beneficial in editing photos after the fact. So if your camera has a Raw mode, you should definitely use it. There are a few minor drawbacks, but you can read about those in that other post, just in case you still haven’t read it.

For all of my “main” photos, I still use an old-fashioned camera - “old-fashioned” in the sense that it is an actual camera and not a phone that also happens to take photos. But I know I am in the ever-shrinking minority here, as phone cameras get used more and more. And in fact as phone cameras get better and better. So here is a tip to help make your phone camera photos better. Ready for it? Here it is (if you haven’t already figured it out from the post title):

Shoot Raw

Sounds similar to that earlier post that you may or may not have read, doesn’t it? But it is still a good tip. If you can do it.

With some of the latest software updates and some of the latest phones, you can now shoot and edit in Raw mode. But it doesn’t work on every phone. For example, if you have an iPhone, you have to use a phone with a 12 megapixel camera, which in other words limits you to the 6s and 7 models. For Android phones, your ability to shoot Raw depends on the phone manufacturer, so you would have to check on that. I believe some Windows phones will also shoot Raw, but you should check to see if your model will do that, too.

You also need an app that will shoot in Raw mode. There are a few out there, and there will probably be more as time goes on. Some apps mainly shoot Raw photos, while others mainly just edit Raw photos. My personal preference is the Adobe Lightroom app, which does both. And it helps that Adobe Lightroom is one of the best desktop photo programs with great Raw editing features, too (read more about that in the earlier post Processing Photos with Lightroom, by the way). 500px (a photo-sharing website, if you didn’t know) also has a similar app, although I haven’t used it nearly as much as Lightroom.

So here is a quick look at the Adobe Lightroom app (search for it in your app store - it’s free!) and some of what it will do. When you first open it up, you will get a screen that looks something like this:

This screen shows all of the photos that you have taken, and it even handily groups them by date. If you want to take a photo with the app, use the photo icon in the lower right, which takes you to the camera screen:

Here, I have touched the “DNG” area at the top of the screen, just to make sure DNG mode is turned on. DNG stands for “digital negative” and is Adobe’s version of the Raw format. If your screen says JPG at the top, then Raw mode isn’t yet turned on. There are several controls at the bottom of the screen if you want to get even more fancy with your shooting, but that is up to you. Also, I almost never shoot in portrait mode as this photo shows. Turn the phone sideways to make your photos look more like real photos. Unless you are taking portraits, of course.

Once you take a photo, you can click on it in the Library view to do your editing. Here is a look at the edit screen:

There are several different edit controls at the bottom, and you can slide to the right or to the left to see even more. You can also pick the icon at the far left (it looks like a shutter for this mode) to change to some different modes, such as Black and White, Vignette, and Tone Curves.

Most of my editing is done in this main mode, and I do my usual Lightroom things like turning down the Highlights, turning up the Shadows, increasing the Whites slightly, decreasing the Blacks even more slightly, and turning up the Saturation and Vibrance a good bit. I also adjust the Temperature until it looks just like I want it to look. And then I’m done. You can pick the export button next to the three dots in the upper right corner to save the photo to your phone’s camera roll, and then upload it to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else from there. If you have an Adobe account, you can sign in to your account and the app will automatically sync your photos from the app to your account, too.

So how does it do? Here are just a few photos that I have shot recently and then edited, all in the Lightroom app. No further processing was done on these photos on a computer, just all in the app. Click on each one to see it larger, so that you can see just how much detail is present.

Okay, so maybe that was photo overload for one post. And I had lots more that I could have added as well. To see what else I come up with after this post is, um, posted, check out my Instagram account, which is the main place that I post these phone photos, although not quite all of the photos I post there are from my phone. But most of them are. These photos sometimes show up on my Twitter and Facebook pages, too.

I will still use my “real” camera as my main camera, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, but for just some quick shots, it is nice to be able to use my phone and then edit those photos in much the same way I would edit my camera photos, while never having the photo actually leave my phone. Pretty cool!

Be sure to see all of Steve’s Photography Tips!

Tips to help you improve your photos!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.